Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

Want to suck all the fun out of your next family gathering? Start talking about dementia.

Dementia isn’t a topic most people are intentionally seeking to talk about, mostly because it’s pretty frightening. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you slowly (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory loss. Nobody wants to experience that.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

You may be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, actually)? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing impairment is neglected?

Maybe you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that worried about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Perhaps the signs are still easy to disregard. Mental decline and hearing impairment are firmly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You can draw away from family, friends, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself like this. Not to mention your social life. Additionally, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they likely won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work much harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then have to get additional energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the present theory). It’s thought that this could quicken the onset of dementia. Your brain working so hard can also cause all manner of other symptoms, such as mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You may have suspected that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a fairly good preliminary indication of a dementia risk.

So… How should we interpret this?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But there might be an upside.

Because it means that successfully managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of cognitive decline. So how do you manage your hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • You can take some steps to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss soon enough. As an example, you could steer clear of noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • The impact of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. So, can cognitive decline be stopped by wearing hearing aids? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have conversations. Research implies that treating hearing loss can help minimize your risk of developing dementia in the future. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Come see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you may have.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

Of course, there are other things you can do to decrease your chance of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health including hearing health.
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. Some studies have linked an increased chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, and that includes your chance of experiencing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).

Needless to say, scientists are still researching the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of dementia. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a small amount of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!

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